Jerusalem (Oct. 14)
The staff of the Jewish Agency in Palestine has on account of the financial difficulties been reduced from 130 officials employed in 1929 to 60, by the decision adopted today to dismiss another 30 officials in addition to those whose services were dispensed with last year.
The question of the Jewish Agency officials in Palestine and their salaries occupied the attention of the Hebrew press in Palestine to a very great extent at the beginning of the year, urging reductions both in the staff numbers and salaries, as well as in the salaries of the members of the Executive and the Directors of the Fund, in view of the financial crisis. The Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine, and the head offices of the Keren Rayesod and the Jewish National Fund responded by publishing their salaries list, giving the number of their officials and the amount of their salaries.
Colonel Kisch, who was until the last Congress, when he resigned, the head of the Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine, dealt with the question at considerable length on one occasion when the prolonged economic depression in Palestine had brought a wave of criticism in connection with the question of the numbers and salaries of the Jewish Agency officials. The charges which have been repeated in the Jewish press both in Palestine and in the Diaspora, he stated, may be summarised as suggesting that the Zionist Executive and its dependent institutions, the Keren Hayesod, the Jewish National Fund, etc., are greatly overstaffed with idle officials who live in luxury and make no sacrifice for the common interest during the present distress. I do not hesitate to say, and I can speak with some knowledge of the subject, Colonel Kisch declared, that the staff which we employ is by no means excessive for the work which it has to do and which, but for the exceptional devotion and zeal of the staff, would not be effectively dealt with without a considerable increase in personnel. I should add that many members of the staff remain extra hours in the office after closing time, while others regularly take office work to their homes to do at night. No overtime salaries or allowances are paid.
There remains, Colonel Kisch went on, the question of the contributions of the staff to the common welfare, both generally and with reference to the present crisis. I would first mention that not only does the whole staff pay Maasor to the Keren Hayesod, but that whenever there is a collection for any national purpose, as, for example, inscribing a name in the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund, the first address to be visited by the collectors is that of the pikidim, and such appeals invariably meet with a generous response. On the occasion of the recent collection of the Moazath Poalei Jerusalem for the unemployed, unmarried officials of the Palestine Zionist Executive all gave 12 days’ salary to the workers’ relief funds, and married officials gave nine days’ salary. Finally, it is with regret that I have to record that the officials have received no salaries for the last three months, and have loyally accepted this suspension of what had become due to them. It is a deplorable thing that the Executive has been obliged thus to hold up the salaries earned by the officials by continuous and steady work under conditions of great pressure, and were it not for the devotion of the officials and for their desire to share the distress of their comrades in the field of labour, such suspension of salaries would have produced demoralisation, which has happily been entirely absent. Instead of attacking and criticising the officials, he said, Jewish labour in Palestine and supporters of Zionist funds everywhere should appreciate both the work they are doing and the sacrifice they have made. It seems to me that the Jewish public ought to have helped the Executive to create a Civil Service of expert officials devoted to the national aspirations and honoured by the public for their labours.